7330/New Beginnings, Old Friends

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New Beginnings, Old Friends
Date of Scene: 11 August 2021
Location: 1117 Brighton Beach
Synopsis: Steve and Bucky catch up over steak and beer. Confessions are offered, plans set into motion and it seems domestic life suits the Winter Soldier.
Cast of Characters: Steve Rogers, James Barnes, Wanda Maximoff

Steve Rogers has posed:
One of those duties of friendship is to check up periodically.

Not that Bucky's particularly given Steve worry of late. A little spacey, a little disconnected, but in truth Steve hasn't seen Bucky so relaxed in years. Probably since '42. If the tradeoff is that his friend seems a little out-of-touch... well, it's not as if James Barnes hasn't earned his retirement, after all.

So Steve brings his much-loved Indian over to the south side of Brighton, parking with a view of the ocean. Construction boots, jeans, a button-down navy shirt of rugged cotton; Steve looks like any other laborer working around the seaside, save how he carries himself once he's on foot.

There's no doorman or attendant to wrangle with. Steve walks right up to Bucky's front door and knocks on it, three sturdy knuckle-raps.

When it opens, he holds out a small potted aloe plant in both hands.

"I have it on good authority that this plant's impossible to kill," Steve informs Bucky. His grave tone is undermined by the amused twinkle in his sky-blue eyes.

James Barnes has posed:
    Steve then, while he's waiting on the door to be answered, may be surprised by the array of very living, very healthy potted plants hanging from the front porch.

    When the door finally opens, Buck's looking well, pretty unBuck. That is to say, if it wasn't for the metal arm, he'd look like any other dude answering their door in anywhere USA. His hair's tied back with just a few wispy strands framing his face, he's wearing a pair of blue cargo shorts, a white t-shirt that says: Kiss the Cook in bright red letters and he's barefooted. Weird.

    "Hey, Steve, I'm sure it'll survive," as he reaches to take the plant. "C'mon in, got steaks on the grill in the back." Weird. "Potatoes are in the oven." Weird. It's all probably nice? Seeing him do *normal*, but it's maybe a little weird, hell it's still weird for *him* sometimes.

    ...there's even a pile of junk mail on the kitchen counter addressed to him. It's the little things.

    "Wands! Steve's here and he brought something green, can you come take it?" Before he manages to kill the unkillable.

Wanda Maximoff has posed:
Such a lovely day to do absolutely nothing! Too hot to be outside, too stuffy to be inside without a window open or air conditioning going, and it's not even certain this little place as a relic from a much earlier time even has central air. Probably not. Unless Bucky has a window mounted air conditioner of some kind, the curse of hiding from the dreaded daystar is a problem.

That is why she cheats. Some kind of spell in motion cools the witch down from the worst of the weather, though not all. A bowl of strawberries at her elbow and a water bottle in hand prove necessary to endure the torpid aftermath of a very long, overly productive morning. The afternoon habit of siesta is a brilliant one, clearly not in use in the US for no good reason.

Bestirring her from that nap means sloughing off a weight that induces her to drift. Curled up on the loveseat, totally without purpose in sorting a few paper bags out, she lifts her chin. "Mmm?"

Okay, that might be an issue. Bucky may have to get the aloe to the counter, given it's almost in arm's reach and unlikely to destroy the plant so immediately. Unless he manages to throw it in the oven or set it on fire with the gas stovetop, the aloe should be safe in the time it takes her to push aside a bag gingerly and wince a bit.

Peeling herself out of the loveseat takes a bit longer, and she makes a sound of dismay. Heat, humidity, it's a reality. "I'm coming." The nearest paper bag gets scooped up, the fixings for a salad carried in.

Steve Rogers has posed:
"Wanda's here?" Steve looks surprised and relieved at that notion. When the Romani witch rises he nods once at her; there's a sense about him that he'd tug at the bill of a cap were he to be wearing one.

"Wanda. You keepin' this reprobate out of trouble?" Steve claps Bucky's arm once in fond affection and steps past him, offering the plant to Wanda in both hands and a properly chaste European kiss near her cheek as she accepts the burden.

"Figured I'd swing by and check out the new digs," Steve informs Bucky. He finds an empty seat and settles comfortably into it. "Brighton Beach, man. I remember all those rich kids who used to pedal down to our neck of the woods for some stickball in an overgrown field. Now--" He gestures at Bucky with both hands. "You look -entirely- at home, here."

James Barnes has posed:
    The plant makes it to Wanda's care without.^^^without dying.. There is a window unit in the living room, pretty decent one at that, but it still struggles to cool the entire house despite the smallish size of it.

    Typically, when it's just him and Wanda, Bucky's speaking Russian. With company, it's a mix of the two. When the Scarlet Witch comes padding her way out of the living room, all sleep tousled and such, Bucky takes a moment to kiss her cheek, one arm, the left, pulling her a little closer to do so. "Did you sleep well, Zvezda Moya?" he asks before pointing to the plant. "I'm sure you know the perfect spot for that?"

    Then he reaches for the bag to settle that down somewhere on a nearby counter.

    "Need to flip before they burn," he announces to both. "You got the greens handled, Wands?" He's more likely to ruin the salad than he is the steaks. But before he heads to the back yard to flip steaks, he offers a quiet, "I missed you, man, there's beer in the fridge." Not only because, currently, Steve is one of the few people he truly remembers well enough to amount to much, but because, well, it's *Steve* and it's a given. He always misses his best friend to some degree when they aren't together.

    One his way through the backdoor he adds, "Yeah, I like it... it feels..." But the sentiment trails off, because there aren't really *words* to describe how it feels most days; 'like home' isn't even sufficient.

Wanda Maximoff has posed:
Brighton Beach, otherwise called Little Odessa, is probably home for a child of the Balkans. Romani she may be culturally and by one axis of lineage, but there is a good portion of her that thrills to black tea, borscht, and black bread. Wanda brushes her damp hair back from her brow and waves, the one-handed greeting for Steve nothing short of warm. "You expect James to make a proper salad? You set a high bar."

Her grocery bag ends up shifted as she approaches. "Showing him a few tips to eat better. We can agree that eating your vegetables comes before prepackaged frozen meals or another burger?" The gentle tone of her teasing isn't at all a problem, and she leans in to kiss Steve on one cheek, then the other, adopting what very well may have been the one thing Transia has in common with the French other than the same language branch.

Bucky receives the same, absent the lettuce he might have crushed, or a bag of prewashed spring mix also being thrown into the overall meal plans. She is nothing if not egalitarian when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Spend years starving, you'll eat whatever damn well presents itself, but having favourites to choose among is still a rarity. "I can go ask where it prefers after. You have company, and the aloe is already quite happy. Steve knows how to take care of a lady."

The plant is now ordained as a female, though it probably proves entirely unopinionated on the topic. The witch is going to have fallbacks on her original languages, all five or six before English entered the lexicon. They agree aloe is a lady. "Thank you." Handing off the bag of veggies to Bucky, she arches an eyebrow at him. "Oh no, you handle it. That was the whole point." A glance to the blond captain brings a hopeful quality, that he too will back her on this.

"How have you been? It is coming along nicely in here, da?" Here the house, here someone's mind, same problem and same quality.

Steve Rogers has posed:
Steve spreads his hands at Wanda's question, looking around in pleased wonderment at the cornucopia of invisible blessings around him. "No one's shot at me recently, blown up the Avenger's building, and we even pulled off a date night this week without being interrupted. I'm as good as it gets." His grin spreads as Wanda sets herself about the task of managing the greens.

Steve digs in the fridge and comes up with two beers in hand, ambling along after Bucky to watch the Winter Grillmaster busy himself with the task of prepping the grill.. At an opportune moment he pops a bottlecap off with his thumbnail and offers the beer to Bucky; the other he claims for himself, and stows the thin metal caps in his pocket with a mindless sort of habit.

A comfortable ledge avails itself and Steve leans his hips against it. The soldier waits until the door's shut and then he lifts a brow at Bucky with an air of bemused speculation. "So... you and Wanda, huh?" An entire library of conversation lodges itself behind that casual question, and the mirthful twitch of his eyebrows expresses a fond amusement to go along with his chivvying tone.

James Barnes has posed:
    "Someone has to man the grill," Buck calls through the open door from the little back porch that overlooks the little backyard. He's determined to get out of salad duty even if it means standing in the heat manning a grill.

    Then Wanda's calling out something about Twin Trouble, promising to return before dessert and heading out. Leaving Bucky alone to face that question from Steve. "Be careful..." He bites off the rest of it, likely some sort of endearment and finishes with, "... here if you need me!"

    He takes the proffered beer, but his gaze is fixed a little toward the front of the house until he hears the door slam shut. He rolls one shoulder in a shrug, "I guess," he murmurs. There's a little smile tugging his lips. The woman makes him happy, she truly does, but the fact scares him a little. It's almost as if he's afraid to acknowledge it out loud, lest they come take it from him. "She's pretty great," he adds quietly, maybe if he's quiet about it Fate won't hear.

Steve Rogers has posed:
Steve just grins and shakes his head, pausing to look out over the views of Brighton Beach and savor the flavor of his beer. "'You guess'," Steve quips. "Jee whiz, Buck, just let yourself be happy for five minutes," Steve suggests to Bucky. "It's not like you're sneaking around with a WAC or something after hours. You two look happy. This is--" he gestures around with the base of his bottle, looking in the window. "I admit it's a little /fast/, but if you two like each other..." Broad shoulders rise and fall in a shrug. "You're both grownups and you both deserve to be happy. And maybe a place all your own isn't such a bad idea either."

Steve looks down at his beer for inspiration, realizing perhaps that he's waxing overlong on something Bucky already knows. "There's a term for it, with the decorating and the personal touches-- nesting, I think?" he says. Steve's vast amusement with the situation and shows in the crinkling near his eyes as his lighter tone returns. "Is that what the kids call it today? I'm pretty sure I've heard you call it the 'domestic trap' at least once, so tell me if I'm getting it wrong."

James Barnes has posed:
    One last flip of the steaks, they'll be ready before the next by Bucky's estimate; one made by checking the coloring of the edges - one simply does not poke a good steak. His teeth worry at his bottom lip a little in the way it always has when he's trying to figure out how to say something, that brow furrow that can mean so many things depending on the depth of it goes along with.

    "I know it seems fast, but not really," he begins, attention on the steaks. "She's been basically living in my head since..." And here's where it gets harder, not so much for the words but for the keeping it from Steve this long. He looks up. "Her and Sharon brought me back from Moscow after HYDRA took me again..." It all comes tumbling out, one word over the other, rapid fire.

    "...anyway, after the few short weeks we've had, we know each other like it's been years." Just a beat and he adds, "Don't blame her, or Sharon, it was me that didn't want anyone to know yet."

Steve Rogers has posed:
"I kinda figured something like that had happened," Steve admits. He looks at Bucky and shrugs with a vague sort of apology. "I mean there are only so many explanations for where you were. And Sharon and Wanda both went radio silent, kind of abruptly. It took me longer than I wanted to admit to put the pieces together; by the time I did, you were back. I kinda figured... well, maybe what you needed was someone else taking a run at dusting you off. I'm glad Sharon and Wanda could help with that."

Even Steve's human enough to have his pride stung by Bucky reaching out to someone else for help, but it's clearly overridden by his concern for Bucky's well-being and gratitude that Bucky's friends were there for him.

"Nadia was real worried, too. Came to me a couple days back worried about you. I scraped her off the wall," Steve reassures Bucky. "She really takes after Janet that way-- 'I'm gonna help you even if I have to kill you doing it'," he quips.

James Barnes has posed:
    "Whatever it is they do - it didn't take the same way this time. I remember stuff, from before, you and me. I remember you bringing me in, but there's so much blank after." It really is a testament to Wanda's 'magic' that he's even able to talk about it without blipping out in one way or another.

    He eyeballs the sides of those steaks, just a few minutes more. "Nadia, that name doesn't mean anything to me. Cael - I think that's what she said... I remember Shelley. They tried to make me shoot Sharon, I pulled it last second because I remembered her, but from the time me and her were in Russian together, when I was runnin', before you found me. I think that's what did it, seeing her so soon after. It was Sharon that found me, I don't even know how; Lil Bitch is determined though and I didn't answer our daily check-ins. She dragged Wanda along."

    He pauses both to gather his thoughts and pull the steaks off the grill at such a time that they won't be bleeding like an open wound when cut, but the pink inside will be mostly red.

    "I guess we're not having salad, potatoes should be about done though." Because really, he'd probably mangle a damned salad.

Steve Rogers has posed:
"How is it you don't know how to make a salad?" Steve remarks with a rhetorical huff. He grins at Bucky's inexpertise and heads inside to do exactly that. Wanda's got most of the work done already; the remainder is chopping a few things up and tossing it all in a bowl. Steve handles a kitchen knife quite deftly with that surety of flawless proporioception that is among the many gifts of the Super-Soldier Serum.

"I guess that explains why you were acting so cockeyed at the dining-in," he remarks. "So... how much do you remember, really?" he inquires, with more hesitation. "You remember Sam? Running into Jimmy Howlett last month?" He looks over his shoulder at Bucky. "I'm not-- don't get me wrong, I'm glad Wanda helped put your feet back on the ground, but if you don't even remember Sam or Becker, maybe it's time to see a therapist or a psychologist or something. I'm just not sure magic is the solution for long-term psychological brain damage, is all," he clarifies a little apologetically. "Even as good as Wanda is, I'm sure."

James Barnes has posed:
    Steaks in hand, Bucky follows along. "I think it's more an aversion to eating them," he surmises along the way.

    "Not much, man. I mean, some of it's comin' back. But only when it's jarred back. Zemo found me, that was awkward. I broke him out of prison?" He settles the platter with the steaks down and goes about setting the little table. "Becker? Oh... yeah, Shelley... Cael, yeah, she showed up about the same time as Zemo. Who, by the way, claims he has information that'll help bust up what they did to my head. Showed me a flash drive, wants me to find someone I trust to look it over, see if it's legit like he claims."

    Plates out, bowls for the salad, utensils set, napkins - cloth, and Bucky's getting the potatoes, all wrapped in foil with oil and sea salt, out of the oven. "What's a therapist going to do, Steve? Really? It's not like they can force the shit to come back, Wanda doesn't even think we should, force it that is; feels it's better to let it come when it will. Sam, I remember, I dunno, bits and pieces, a road trip somewhere, cheese steaks. Shel - Cael, is supposed to bring my dog back. Didn't even know I had one, but looking forward to that."

    He's so damned calm about it, no flighty looks, no shaking and trembling, just that little undercurrent of fear, but who wouldn't be afraid after all of that? At least it's not overwhelming?

Steve Rogers has posed:
"I was in, uh, Salzburg, in June of '45." Steve's motions slow as that perfect memory kicks in. "Goat-roped into a medal presentation. The brass wanted everyone there, I got 'voluntold' I was gonna be present. Asked what rear-echelon officer was getting a commendation that needed me there. This wasn't long after, the train, when, uh... you..." He trails off, clearing his throat and staring out the window in front of him.

"Anyway. Told me it was for the Medal of Honor. Some... kid from Texas. Nineteen years old in '44. Went from Private to Staff-Sergeant, to Lieutenant, in two years."

Steve smiles ruefully at the memory. "I don't think he weighed a buck-thirty with his boots on. I probably could have given him my old wardrobe. We shook hands, talked for a bit. They were transferring him out of combat and back to the regiment. Combat fatigue. They call it PTSD now."

Steve looks down at his quiet hands, finishes chopping up the stuff for the salad, and pours it into a bowl to carry over to the table. "I went under the ice not long after. Looked him up when I thawed. At the end of the war he had more salad on his chest than most of the Howling Commandos. Every award for valor and citation for bravery in the US military, and some from France and Belgium to boot."

"After the war, he got famous. Movies, and stuff. Talked a lot about being a veteran, about combat fatigue. Got the VA hospitals to start admitting guys for psych care instead of just chucking them in the sanitarium."

Steve shakes his head. "Sorry, I'm--" he scratches his thumbnail over his forehead with a grimace. "He had problems with the bottle, and sleeping pills. Got in fights and had bad flashbacks. He was candid about it and never pretended it was all right, like a lot of the guys did. But he never said that the solution for it is forgetting. I've heard Sam say the same thing in the group sessions. I'm worried that-- that what you've got, this blank, this isn't really 'healing', Bucky. It's just forgetting. It's not the same thing. If I'm wrong... I hope I'm wrong. But if I'm right-- who is gonna get hurt if the levee breaks?"

James Barnes has posed:
    For just a moment or two, as he listens, after he's listened, Bucky stands there, half-way through unwrapping potatoes - Wanda's left wrapped for later. His voice is soft, maybe a little hesitant, when he finally speaks. "Steve, I love you man, but I don't think there is *healing* for what's been done to me, not really. There's just trying to live with it and be okay with it. I'm not yet, okay with it, not entirely. I'm working on it though."

    He uses a pot holder to transplant potatoes to plates. So domestic, that. "I remembered why I left, a little bit about how they got me, the other day. I was going after Zola. I thought maybe if I chopped the head of it off, the beginning of it, then maybe I could kill the part of me that everyone hates and fears for good, kill the Winter Soldier. But that was bullshit."

    Butter, sour cream, chopped chives - obviously Wanda's earlier prep that, shredded cheese, bacon bits; all the fixings for a loaded tater get retrieved from the fridge and set on the table. "Fighting against him, denying him, that's what I couldn't get okay with, Steve. The shit I don't remember now, these past few years? That's... roses and cupcakes, if I had to guess on it, compared to the years before that I *do* remember. He's always been there, they just pulled him to the front and used him. I wouldn't be here without him, Steve. It wasn't just Bucky that pulled the shot on Sharon, that you pulled back from the brink, that didn't kill Peggy when he was supposed to. It was him too. If the levee breaks? I trust him to make sure no one gets hurt, not anyone I love anyway. Because he's *me*."

    He puts the platter with the steaks down on the table so Steve can pick his own, snags two more beers from the fridge, his was gone back at setting the table, and settles into a seat before, "Sorry, rambling, I don't even know if it makes sense."

Steve Rogers has posed:
"No-- it doesn't," Steve admits. He looks down at the floor arms, folded loosely over his chest, and tries to think through it.

The Captain gives up with a heavy sigh and moves to one of the chairs, pulling it out and dropping heavily into it. "But I'm not a shrink, either, and I'm not gonna pretend to be one. We're soldiers, Buck. We've had to do some bad things to bad people. It's part of the job. I don't regret doing it, but I do regret that we -had- to do it. And I regret losing the guys we did along the way." He looks up at Bucky-- there's a flash of that guilt in his eyes, where Bucky's name is permanently listed along with everyone else that Steve failed to save.

"I'm not gonna bully you into getting help, Buck," Steve says, quietly. "I'm gonna tell you straight that I think you need it. I'm glad this is working for you." A finger gestures vaguely, encompassing the apartment. "Just promise me that if-- *if*-- things go sideways, you'll let me or Sam or whomever get you to a professional. Okay?"

James Barnes has posed:
    "That wasn't your fault, man." Bucky can read Steve same way Steve can read Bucky. "Not one bit your fault and as soon as you knew I was alive, you saved me."

    "The only help I need right now, Steve," Bucky begins while he's prepping his potato, with *everything*. "... is fixing the shit that allows them to use me, me Bucky, me The Winter Soldier, however you wanna see it. I need someone that knows their shit to look at that flash drive Zemo has. The only way I'm ever going to get to truly *okay* is if that's gone, with or without a therapist."

    He looks around his little kitchen in *his* little house, at the junk mail piled on the counter; some of it open and some of it not, none of it tossed because it's a little reminder that he's a real person and not just an asset or a ghost. The junk mail Gods - by way of Wanda's wiggling fingers and seeing to it - recognize him as such.

    "All of this, Wanda, a man couldn't ask for more, but it's hard to just let it be knowing they could rip it all away in a heartbeat, you know? That fear, it's not the same thing as 'well anyone could die any day so might as well live while you can'."

Steve Rogers has posed:
"I get it, Bucky, I do," Steve says. Fingers flex apologetically. "I don't want you to lose this either. If this makes you happy-- if this *keeps* you happy-- then that's good enough for me. God knows, you and Wanda have earned it."

He reaches for his knife and fork, pauses, and then reaches for his beer instead. It's held by the neck and he holds it out with the sturdy base crossing the median point of the table, and makes eye contact with Bucky.

"To new beginnings, bud," he proposes as the topic of a toast.

James Barnes has posed:
    Bucky meets the toast across the table for a clank, "New beginnings, old friends."

     "Oh, but I guess I'm drinking from the Grog bowl next time. 'cause see, Wanda does this thing when she kisses me where she wraps her fingers all up in my hair..." He trails off, crooked little grin on his face.

    When he settles back again, he asks, "You know anyone? With enough tech knowledge to look at that drive?" ...before diving into the food he's put on his plate; his salad bowl remains empty, go figure. "He left a number, I'm supposed to call him and let him know when we find someone."

Steve Rogers has posed:
"Aww c'mon man, I'm trying to /eat/ here," Steve mutters, and reaches for his utensils. He shakes his head and rather pointedly starts transferring large spoonfuls of salad into Bucky's bowl until his friend takes the hint and remembers to settle into dinner.

"I'd ask Tony," Steve suggests. "JARVIS has cracked some pretty tough nuggets in the past. Computers are his thing. Maybe Vision, too," he suggests. "If not, I can reach out to some people in the community. I'm pretty leery of anything that Zemo -or- Zola might have had a finger in," he admits. "It'd be just their style to give you enough rope to hang yourself. There's no telling what's actually -in- that drive. For all we know it'll explode the first time someone gets past the security software."

James Barnes has posed:
    Is salad part of dinner? Bucky's nose wrinkles a little and he puts up a 'stop' motion with his left hand after about the third scoop of salad. Wanda's not here right? Does he *really* have to eat *that*? He is pretty much devouring the steak and potato between the talking though.

    "Steve, nothing... no idea," he reminds gently. "I mean I *know* who Tony Stark is, I think maybe I was supposed to kill him once, but they put a Widow on it... didn't pan out?" Little dark humor there. But the point remains, he has no idea who these people are for the most part. "I'll trust whoever you find."

    "...and just because I'm living here, in Brighton Beach, in a little house, doesn't mean I'm *retired* by the way, if you need me for stuff, I'm still here."

    After a fork-full of loaded tater he says, "Zemo says it has something to do with the... there's these chairs, I remember several of them in different places. They'd strap me into them and put this thing around my head. I remember being terrified of them and I'd wake up later; sometimes months later, when they needed me for something... and almost everything else would be gone. I dream about it, not good dreams. Anyway, he says what he's found out has something to do with using one of those."

    Talking about it all, over dinner, with nothing more than a slight tightening of his jaw from time to time? Now that is fucking *progress*.

Steve Rogers has posed:
Steve nods carefully. "Okay. I'll make sure it gets into the right hands," he says. His voice is carefully neutral, and the other topics of conversation are avoided in favor of safer pastures. "If there's anything useful on it, we'll find it for you. After all the work Zola and Zemo have put into messing with your head, it's about time that they spent some time making it right. Whether they intend to help or not," he adds, and smirks with a rueful expression.

"I guess in the meantime, enjoy some well-earned rest," he suggests. "Travel a little. I tell you, we missed all the best parts of Italy," he advises Bucky. "Sicily's a lot nicer when you're not slogging through the trenches at night. And Milan's got some nice views of the Alps. You and Wanda could hit the kiddy slopes." He grins at Bucky, baiting. "I can't make any promises, but I could probably get Janet to lend you two her ski chalet for a weekend, though Gstaad's a little warm and sunny this time of year."

James Barnes has posed:
    "Dunno about vacations," Bucky offers around a mouthful of steak. Manners? What are those? He swallows before continuing though. "Russian mafia's on the move around here, Steve. Intercepted a shipment coming into a warehouse at the Navy Yard. Found six people in the cargo hold, all suspended in this fluid, red where the eyes shoulda been white. Wanda was with me... and did you know the fucking Shadow's real? As in the Shadow Knows and shit? That was weird."

    A breath sighed before, "I don't know what they were, just that whatever'd been done to them ... killing them was a mercy. I gotta figure it out, so... still working."

    He hasn't a clue, doesn't remember a bit of it, but seems A.I.M. has branched out into selling to the mobs that have enough money to pay the price.

    "...maybe after that's wrapped in a bow, Gstaad won't be so warm, yeah?"